October 11th, 2009
03:07 PM ET
13 years ago

Casey: $250K cap on malpractice damages 'insulting'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/11/art.caseysotu1011.cnn.jpg caption="Sen. Casey said Sunday that an aspect of medical malpractice reform favored by many congressional Republicans was 'insulting' and wouldn't be 'justice as we have come to understand it.'"]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A moderate Pennsylvania Democrat came out strongly Sunday against the possibility of imposing a cap on medical malpractice damages as part of comprehensive health care reform legislation currently under consideration in Congress.

“I don’t think the way to go is to limit the rights of Americans who are injured by negligent or intentional conduct,” Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey who is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“A $250,000 cap on damages, in my humble opinion, is insulting to our system of justice,” Casey also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “That is not justice as we have come to understand it.”

In an interview that aired earlier on State of the Union, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain suggested that medical malpractice reform was one area where the GOP should begin to crystallize its own positive health care reform agenda now that Congress is about to begin to process of melding together several health care bills in both chambers.

But, pointing to the experience of her state, Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow suggested that the Republican approach to malpractice reform was too simplistic.

“There’s a different way to come at it,” Stabenow told King, “The Republicans have a very traditional approach over and over again – whether or not [malpractice reform] has worked.” Stabenow said damages caps imposed in Michigan had not stemmed increases in the malpractice insurance rates paid by doctors.

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budge Office issued a cost estimate of the health care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee which concluded that inclusion of tort reform in the legislation would save $54 billion.

soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. medschool student

    The cap is because.. doctors are so scared of getting sued out of existence that they order tons of tests just to prove what they already know which increase YOUR insurance rates. Insurance like Medicares pays so little to doctors that they have to see a patient every 10 minutes. And they wonder why the patients healthcare quality decreases. Not to mention that 10minutes per patient helps them pay for their malpractice insurance.. A state has X amount of doctors, each doctor takes 8 years to train. And during that time they have tons of loans and get paid around 40g's for there 48hr work weeks which is around 9dollars an hour. They screw up once and now they owe a patient a few million or a million in damages?? they cant pay for that, especially not a primary care doc.. there license is gone and thats it. no job and that state with X amount of doctors is not minus one that it needs to train a kid 8years for.. and he is scared out of his mind. Tort reform needs to happen along with increasing doctor payments AKA government medicare, limiting malpractice.. so that patient care increases. patient care increasing will limit mistakes. and make more doctors want to go to primary care. Insurance companies need competition? drop state lines, why does health insurance have to do with ur job?? everyone should get their own, regardless of what company they work for? an insurance company has 90 percent of people in a city? monopoly laws? ... i am not for a government healthcare... just because i think 100things also need to be done before a "public option" should even be considered. This needs a multiple front approach.. and with the deficit "thanks bush" we cant afford it now.. so why dont start attacking all the smaller things until we have the money. Arguing over something that isnt feasible at the moment and that shouldnt be the spot light of healthcare reform isnt smart.. but then again politicians arnt either.. Everyone hates the lawyers.. guess who the politicians are.

    October 11, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. Get real!

    Tort reform is not for health insurance companies you dumbies. Doctors don't get medical malpractice insurance coverage from healthcare companies; if doctors pay less for coverage they can charge less for their services and thus the less that healthcare insurance companies have to pay out. Why is it so hard to realize that insurance is all about risk; if you pay out more than you take in you go out of business. Sure, you can make it non-profit and allow pre-existing conditions however how do you pay for it if your expenses are more than your revenue? I have yet to hear ANYONE discuss this yet! Until they do I don't think reform has a chance.

    October 11, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. Andrew

    "This is saying the obvious, but it needs to be said. These two are bought and paid for by the American Trial Lawyers Association (which recently re-named itself the Association for Justice, because the name "trial lawyer" is too…honest?)."

    I'm not sure how that's worse than being bought and paid for by the health insurance industry, which is what most of the Republicans are.

    October 11, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. Christopher R.

    Any bill that is produced that does not include real tort reforms can not be taken seriously. At this very moment, on the cover of the Tampa Bay Yellow Pages, there are three different advertisements for three different malpractice firms. JUST ON THE COVER! On my way to work, I see SIX roadside billboards, advertising the services of malpractice attorneys. This along a four mile stretch of northbound 275. If you don't think physicians think about these things, you are wrong. I know I do. I know my colleagues do. What a shame. You can bet I am going to order every test in the book to CMA. I am not about to give away what took me over a decade and a half to earn. Not a chance. The arguments against real tort reforms are old, tired, and stopped holding water a long time ago.

    University of Michigan Medical School '94

    October 11, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. Christopher R.

    I know that the just threat of getting sued plays a huge role in how physicians conduct themselves on a day to day basis. With today's medicolegal climate, when I see a fairly routine patient with a fairly routine complaint, I am much more inclined to order a $10,000 work-up to get a 99% diagnosis, than to spend $300 to get a 97% diagnosis. Knowing that there are dozens of malpractice attorneys around the corner salivating to get their hands on me and that although I may be innocent of any wrong doing, I may be tied up in court for years and that a judgement may be settled out of court because it is cheaper than actually defending myself. This is 'lawsuit lotto', and the attorneys know this. They will tell you that they are protecting "patient's rights", yet take 60% or more of any award. I agree with compensating a person who is a victim of negligence however the trial lawyers have the system rigged and flood Congress with money to keep it that way. Shine it up, but it still stinks.

    October 11, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  6. Chris

    Look, $250k is basically 5 years of income for the average US family. It's a lot of money. Is it enough that if you die and your family wins the money, they'll be able to retire and do nothing for 30 years?

    Most life insurance policies are for around $100k, and people buy them like hotcakes, because $100k is a lot of money. $250k is perfectly reasonable.

    October 11, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  7. Johnny Neptune

    What incentive is there for me to be a doctor if almost 50% to 75% (depending on which state I practice medicine in) is going towards mal-practice insurance?

    It's simple, address Tort Reform now or there won't be any doctors left to sue.

    October 11, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Pablo

    Caps on recovery of damages for pain and suffering only serves to protect insurance companies which, without regard to the existence of caps, will always make their money off their insureds. As is the case with poor drivers, insurance companies need to rate doctors and charge those with a history of negligence larger premiums instead of spreading the costs among the entirety of the profession. Incompetent doctors should be unable to obtain insurance, which should be mandated by our states for all doctors so that those without insurcance cannot practice.
    Moreover, a vast part of the problem in the medical profession is that, unlike the legal profession, it does not police itself to eliminate from its midst the doctors who perpetually cause damage rather than fulfill their obligation to heal.
    Finally, caps are detrimental to those who suffer for many years, decades or entire lifetimes with pain resulting from medical neglect. Just imagine, as an example of pain caused by medical malpractice, having to manually massage the abdomen and bowel to defecate rather than being able to do it naturally? Now imagine having to do that daily for 7300 days (equivalent to 20 years)? Let juries award, and appellate courts review the propiety of, what is fair and just under the circumstances of each case.

    October 11, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. Get real!

    You also have plenty of Americans that will sue at the drop of a hat if they think just the little thing wrong was done and an attorney will take on the case. I've got an idea, how about we reduce what the attorney can collect if their client wins. If they only get a percent or two they may be willing to only take on the ones that really count!

    October 11, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Let's make sure..................

    Again, the GOP is sticking up for Insurance companies. I'm sick and tired of it. Physicians have malpractice Insurance. Does any one realize that? If court action even becomes necessary for malpractice or intentional misconduct by a Doctor...our Justice system provided civil laws to address these issues. Now that the GOP see's the writing on the wall for impending health care reform....they want to flank legistlation to continue protecting the Insurance companies. This is bogus...they also need to out law Peasnt's life Insurance to Coporations.............

    October 11, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Peter

    Cap the rogue Insurance companies period!!

    October 11, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. America Shrugged

    What the party of no is really doing here is limiting the amount of money a Trial Lawyer can make on malpractice suits, that in many cases could take years. Why is it that the party of no want's trial lawyers to work for nothing but has no problem with Insurance Executives making millions upon millions in salaries and bonuses to deny health benefits? What I see is an opposition party that wants to control what Trial lawyers can make, and to force americans to buy private health insurance rather than have a choice to purchase the public option. Sounds like they don't believe in freedom of choice anymore.

    October 11, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  13. Just a Mom

    No matter whether their is a cap or not, they all still have to go through the courts. So why not just create some form of a medical malpractice payment scale based on the type of damages inflicted, then go case by case?
    I mean, if you have to deal with an unintended tiny scar for the rest of your life, you may get a minimal amount of money. If they cut off the wrong leg, you get a larger amount. It all depends on case by case.

    Then, OPEN STATE BORDERS on puchasing health insurance!

    It's the attorneys that created this problem. Washington is full of attorneys, so do you really think they will pass a bill that will in the end hurt their income?

    October 11, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. Republicans = fascism

    Again the republicans spend their political capitol backing big Insurance companies and the AMA. Evidently they care nothing about the people who are victims of bad doctors who make bad decisions. Their idea of improving health care with "tort reform" is a cynical joke. Under Bush and now fighting Obama, the republicans (and blue dog Democrats too) have done nothing other than obstruct any real change to help our uninsured, and instead have focused on increasing profits to the companies who reward them with millions in political donations. What a pathetic lot these people are: lining their own pockets with money on the backs of the poor and uninsured. It's sickening.

    October 11, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  15. Enough

    No---but they need to put an end to the ridiculous lawsuits people file trying to make a quick buck. Those lawsuits should be eliminated by having the losing party pay ALL fees involved. Democrats are in bed with the lawyers, that's why the strong resistance to any reform to malpractice. Face it folks, that's a reason we pay so much, the malpractice insurance costs are passed on to us. It's not all about the insurance companies.

    October 11, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. Margaret, CT

    My understanding is that supporters of a cap are touting $250,000 for pain and suffering and $500,000 for punitive damages.

    That's not much if you lose your livlihood or are left permanently disabled due to negligence! What if that happened to you and now you have to retrofit your house for a wheelchair and/or are never able to work at what might have been a well-paying profession that you studied to learn for years?

    Malpractice payouts have almost not risen AT ALL over the last ten years (look it up) yet malpractice insurance has OVER tripled! What does that tell you? The insurance companies are making out like bandits.

    October 11, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. Kevin

    Without civil law suits, we'd still be driving Pintos to toxic waste dump playgrounds with lead painted swing sets. Handcuff the civil legal system and watch more innocent people die at the already bloody hands of corporate "free markets."

    October 11, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Dee, 1 Vote

    Sen Cae, you are like your Dad, "We the need help, you are telling the GOP, "We the people, not the $$$!"

    October 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. debra

    Practically everything being said and done by anyone (Dems and Reps) in Washington regarding the "new healthcare system" is insulting to all of us. We need reform, not partisan, screw the taxpayer, reform. If Congress passes any legislation in regard to health care, they MUST be required to take the same healthcare that they are trying to enforce on all of us.

    October 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. Bill

    this is how it should be:
    – no $ for malpractice lawsuit
    – if the doctor has erred, as convicted in a trial that can be appealed all the way to the supreme cout, s/he would be required to donate one of internal organs
    – however, if the doctor wins (i.e. no error on his part) the plaintiff must donate one of his/her internal organs

    it's a win-win situation as it'll certainly de-incentivies frivilous lawsuit.

    October 11, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. Stefan

    Sure, cap the payouts, but not so much to the person injured, but instead to the laywers! Why did a law firm make BILLIONS on tobacco suit when the people suing made millions each? Unreal! Cap laywer's payouts to 50K per case, per year the case goes on. This would immediately bring down "frivolous" lawsuits, becase lawyers wouldn't risk getting into them for "only" 50K.
    A law firm doesn't need more than 50k per year, per lawsuit. This would actually make them have to work for their money instead of spending all their time smoking cigars in their country clubs.

    October 11, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. Jon

    Do any of you realize how many b/s malpractice lawsuits are out there. My father was a doctor and got sued many times. Not because he did anything wrong but because at some point in some patience medical history he read an x-ray. Look at it from the doctors perspective you idiots. Doctors take care of you and they are not the isurance companies. But you people treat them like they are. This cap is only on pain and suffering not on economic factors like lost wages and future earnings. Doctors all over this country should form a union and demand that this mistreatment and milking of there income stop. I bet if that happened all the insurance companies and lawyers would change there tune and so would all you. Doctors are the only friend you have when it comes to your health act like it!!!! Or just maybe they will start refusing to treat certain people for liability purposes. Wouldn't that shut you all up!!!

    October 11, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. CIE

    What else would you expect Dem Senator Casey to say? He has always been in the "trial Lawyer's" pocket. They supported every campaign he ever ran. He isa lawyer himself as he was attorney General of Pa. first.
    Just look at thenumber of ambulance chaser commercials on TV in Northeast Pa. Without malpractice cases, many many of which are jokes, these guys might actually have to take on real legal cases. OH NO !!!!

    October 11, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. xvet

    So-called tort reform is a blatant attempt by tobacco, asbestos, insurance etc. industries to eliminate an inherited right to legal redress by a jury of our peers. At the same time these same industries want to continue to sue each other for millions. So-called reform will effect citizens only. Those in power will see to that. Lawsuits are the only way we can seek some fairness from the excesses and draw attention to the unfairness of our system. Tort reform doesn't do what it advertises, it won't lesson costs it would only increase profits as we sit back and watch another of our precious rights disappear. this isn't about trial lawyers it's about us. Tort reform don't fall for it.

    October 11, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. BillyBobTomRedcracker

    This $250,000 cap is obviously being suggested by a wealthy Republican. In many situations, $250,000 wouldn't cover two weeks worth of care. $50,000,000 might be too much of a settlement but a $250,000 maximum settlement is laughable.

    October 11, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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